Today I have the pleasure of learning more about author, Janell Wojtowicz. How did you develop a love of story?
My first job was as editor of a small town newspaper. Since there wasn’t much hard news beyond city council meetings and police logs, people stories were key to maintaining readership and thus, advertising. People love to see their names in the paper, and I believe that everyone has a story. Half of the fun was finding—often digging for—the story. My fondness for the people story fit perfectly in my role as a writer at a Christian college for 12 years. That was a gold mine for stories: an FBI agent alum, family tragedies God used to lead donors to establish scholarships, Rhodes Scholars, internships in China. Now, after 30 years writing nonfiction I find myself writing fiction where I’m no longer limited to reality. I develop characters, scenes, and scenarios to fit plots conjured up in my imagination, sometimes based on personal experience. For example, one scene in “Embracing Hope” involves a college Homecoming celebration. Imagine the freedom and creativity of embellishing my memories of the tradition and adding a romantic element? When I encountered a plot hiccup that would take too long to resolve, I just killed them off. And since most readers want a happy ending, there’s a wedding and children. The fates of these people are in my hands. For a journalist, that’s a major paradigm shift!
Sounds like you had some really interesting people you spoke with. How does your faith and spirituality work in with your writing?
I’ve worked in both the Christian and secular job sectors for over 30 years. One job was with local government so faith could have NO role in my work. As a result, my writing was empty. I was most fulfilled working with Christian organizations—they became my ministry. My novels have become my ministry now, which complements my publisher’s goal of spreading the gospel. Imagine studying the Bible and using scripture to integrate Christian principles in romance?! Social media has given me opportunities to illustrate my faith, too. I’m not “in your face”—it’s not my style. I use words to encourage, not proselytize. Yet people know where I stand in my faith-walk with Jesus Christ.
That's great that your publisher's goals complement yours. How long have you've known you're a writer?
I was one of those kids who actually liked writing the dreaded “What I did on summer vacation” essay. My first fiction was a short story about a girl hooked on drugs that I wrote on my own when I was a junior high; my cousin illustrated it. By the time I got to high school it just seemed natural that I would be a writer. I never had any other career aspiration. I majored in written communications in college, and since then my career has been in journalism, public relations, and now novels.
I can relate to loving writing assignments while in school. :) Do you have a favorite scene in your newest release?
Yes, and I still cry when I read it. The setting is midnight in a dark and gloomy hotel lobby as a blizzard rages outside—and in the heart of a grieving widower. Desperate for closure to calm the rage, he finally takes off his wedding ring, and pleads with God to give him something to hope for—or at least something to hang on to. Enter the ingénue, basked in a halo from the streetlight, to prevent his emotional collapse with a simple squeeze of his hand.
Sounds like you do a great job setting up the scene. What is one thing you hope readers will take away from your story?
Based on the novel’s title, hope is the focus. While it’s one of what I call the “Big Three” of First Corinthians 13 (faith, hope, love), hope is overlooked. Millions of sermons, books, websites, and Bible studies are devoted to the various types of love. And we all know that faith is the foundation of our relationship with God. Yet hope is often seen as wishful thinking or dreaming. But hope is tangible. It takes goal-setting, action, and communication with God. My goal is that the main characters’ individual situations will illustrate how hope is tangible, whether it’s finding and accepting love after loss or succeeding in education and a career. In tough times I’ve often turned to God with one simple prayer, which I use in the story: “Give me something to hope for—something to hang on to.” And He always did, even in little ways.
I like that. understanding. What advice would you give to new authors?
1) Don’t be in a hurry. It took me nine years. (And don’t be discouraged by that!) When I started out, I wanted to publish in two to three years. Boy, was I naïve! I had only pitched to a dozen agents/small publishers before life got in the way: career demands, an arduous (and ultimately unsuccessful) job search, deaths in the family, the total upheaval of publishing. The novel probably sat a total of four years. At one point I didn’t look at the manuscript for over a year. I was reluctant to look at it again for fear it would stink. But, alas, it didn’t stink!
2) “Let go and let God”, knowing that you might need to step away from it for a while. As I cleaned up life’s messes, I yielded my publishing dream to God. I didn’t give up, although a few times I joked I’d be published posthumously. Last year, God gave me a nudge following the sudden death of my writing mentor, Dale. He had sent me a database of small publishers just before he died and six months later three emerged. One was a flat-out rejection. The second offered me a contract and as a result I withdrew my pitch from the third one. The second publisher closed last August. I never got beyond the contract phase and sensed there were problems so I wasn’t surprised or heartbroken. I wasn’t sure I should resubmit to the third publisher, so I posted the question on a LinkedIn Christian writer/editor/publisher group. Those who commented encouraged me to try again, so I did. A few days later, I got an email from a self-published author/businessman from the LinkedIn group offering his advice and encouragement. I shared my writing and publishing journey with him and had him read my pitch. He said it had potential, but he had some questions about the plot. I sent him the whole manuscript so he could see how the issues were approached. Plus, I always want people to read it even if it goes nowhere! A week later, he said he was interested in publishing it as he was starting a small publishing company. I was a bit hesitant after the second publisher went out of business, so I did my research and we continued a dialogue via phone and email. One month after I lost the first publisher I signed the contract with Discern Products (Ottawa, Canada). Neither of us set out at the beginning to enter into a contract, but God had other ideas in His timing and in His ways. Ironically, the third publisher asked to see the entire manuscript three days after I signed the contract with Discern. I felt bad declining, but she was very understanding.
3) Never underestimate the power of professional networking—in my case, LinkedIn.
Wow. What an interesting publishing journey you've had. Where can readers connect with you?
Facebook - www.Facebook.com/janellbwoj
Blog - http://janellwoj.wordpress.com
LinkedIn - www.linkedin.com/in/janellwoj6
Discern Author Page - http://discernproducts.com/?book_author=janell-butler-wojtowicz
Goodreads - https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/16046310.Janell_Butler_Wojtowicz
Website - www.janellwoj.com
Amazon - https://www.amazon.com/Embracing-Hope-Janell-Butler-Wojtowicz/dp/1988422043/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1479298376&sr=1-1&keywords=janell+butler
Email - firstname.lastname@example.org
Thank you for being with us today, Janell. I pray the Lord blesses your writing.